Biden will push to end Russia’s ‘most favored nation’ trade status

US President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo attend a meeting with Colombia’s President Ivan Duque in the Cabinet Room at the White House, in Washington, US, March 10, 2022.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

President Joe Biden on Friday will call for the US to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” status, a downgrade as a trading partner that could open the door to damaging new tariffs on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Biden is expected to make that announcement during remarks from the White House at 10:15 am, a senior administration official told CNBC and NBC News.

The European Union and the Group of Seven nations will move to take the same step, multiple outlets reported. Canada already removed Russia’s most favored nation status last week.

Congress must act for Russia’s trade classification as a member of the World Trade Organization to be canceled. Bipartisan lawmakers have broadly supported nonmilitary efforts to punish Russia, and some have already called for revoking Moscow’s WTO status.

“I think we should use Article 21 ability under the WTO to revoke that,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Thursday during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

The House this week also overwhelmingly supported legislation that requires the US Trade Representative to consider suspending Russia’s participation in the WTO.

Biden’s announcement will mark the latest push by the US and dozens of other countries to ratchet up their unprecedented efforts to isolate and undermine Russia’s economy in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, who has been interviewed from a bunker in the capital of Kyiv even as Russian forces approach the city, had directly asked Congress over the weekend to revoke Russia’s most favored nation status.

Biden this week signed an executive order banning Russian oil imports. The US, EU and NATO countries have imposed sanctions on Russian businesses, its elite oligarchs and even Putin, while a growing number of major corporations have pulled their business out of the country.

If Russia’s trade status is revoked, the Biden administration and Congress will be able to impose taxes on any goods Russia exports to the US

Russia was the US ’26th-largest trading partner in 2019, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative. Russian exports to the US in 2021 totaled $ 29 billion, the majority of which comprised oil and gas products.

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